What is the best way to buy CRM Software?
When we talk with our customers, they maintain that sales is the most important role in their business. If you agree with that assertion, as we do, then isn’t it in your best interest to ensure the department is at its peak performance? In order to measure performance, you need measure points and instrumentation – in our world this is CRM, often referred to as Sales Force Automation SFA. Sales teams that leverage CRM / SFA are most likely to improve year over year.
Based on our experiences over the last 15 years, we would like to help you position yourself to buy CRM effectively. Here are the top 7 questions you should ask yourself when buying a CRM / SFA solution:
1. Should I be personally involved in the CRM choice?
If you’re going to introduce CRM into your company, do it to the same level of vigor that you invest in every other aspect of your role. No pressure, but CRM technology is a conduit for your vision for sales success. Own it and others will notice and buy in. Let them know at every turn why it’s important to you and the exec team. Leverage your experience and understanding of your current and desired sales process(es) and goals to assess the suitability of your CRM shortlist. Instructing a team member to “see what’s out there” is typically a waste of time and resources, or will tend to lead you down the wrong path.
2. If I buy the CRM, will the team use it?
Adoption is the single most important metric in determining CRM / SFA success, and likewise the culprit in failed projects. Our Customer Success team measures adoption as a key component of our overall Customer Health Score; the ratio of purchased licenses to daily active users of licenses. If you have ten licenses for ten sales people, use ten, accept nothing less.
So how do you ensure buy-in from the sales team? Give them a founding role in the buying process. Select one of your top sales folks (one that all of the other sales folks look up to), and your most organized and/or methodical sales rep. Give them a voice, listen to their needs and opinions. Let them help with mapping the current and desired sales strategy development. The Sales team will adopt if they know one of their own was involved in the selection and it is tuned to their needs.
3. How will the team understand the seriousness of this project?
Get C-level mandate and give the new CRM project a name
Avoid trite or overused terms like “Phoenix”. Use terms that align with the desired outcome of the project. Ensure the Owner/ CEO / President echoes your CRM Value statements and goals. Alignment up top is key. Ensure that you are updating the executive team with milestone achievements and have them reflect that back to the team during regular staff meetings.
4. How should I approach this project to ensure success?
Let your company goals and how your team supports those goals dictate your requirements. While it’s important and recommended to plot a 3 to 5-year plan, you will be better served if you break down the full CRM deployment and optimization into discreet phases or “wins”. Take on only as much as your team can handle while they are making the trains run on time. Remember, CRM strategy primarily involves the very front line of your business. Unless you are planning to waive quotas for the year…which is definitely not recommended… you would be wise to break the project into bite-sized chunks and make a point to celebrate the successful completion of each.
Taking heed of change management principles is important here for your plan and design. Sales people are conservative by nature when it comes to behavioral / procedural habits. Too radical a change can impact negatively on near term sales quota attainment. Go for the initial big win e.g. “all sales data in one place” or “accurate forecasts” and announce that to the team to inspire confidence and greater personal investment.
5. Should I set a time frame for this project?
Yes! We have found that well defined (and adhered to) time frames are essential… This does not necessarily mean conducting a lengthy RFP process, but we do recommend a level of project discipline that enables a group of this size to be efficient and effective. Taking advantage of proven methodologies, such as the RFP project approach, will pay dividends… You may also decide to employ one of my favorite tactics and consider publishing and prominently displaying a Gantt chart detailing important vendor selection milestones. Everyone who has a role will understand the role they play and when their deliverables are due. This also underlines the formality and importance of the project. Projects that have no published end date tend to fizzle and die, wasting resources on all sides and diminishing enthusiasm for future attempts.
6. Who can I rely on – the vendor?
This should be a 50/50 thing: 50% vendor and 50% you. Assess your vendors’ partnership potential and assign added weight to that specific criteria.
Ask yourself, do they “get me” and “do I get them?” i.e. do they know my space, my sales challenges, my customers and my needs? Do the balance of their customers look like me? Are they overselling my team?
Assess your needs and don’t let the software companies set the agenda alone. You share the goal of a successful project, but that’s where the overlap ends. They measure success across many CRM deployments, while you care only about one…yours. Getting the right vendor resources engaged at the right time can make the difference between success and failure. You are best served to create and cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship with your vendor of choice so that you can be sure they are bringing their best to the project.
7. How about my team?
Does your buying team fully understand your selling process, existing or desired? I mean, really understand the process? Can they articulate the current sales process, from new lead to closure? Have they interviewed the Sales team? Do they understand their / your priorities?
Don’t “outsource” this important role. Polled clients have noted in previous failed projects that they allowed teams outside sales, such as IT to lead the project. Your CRM system will play a leading role in the future of your go-to-market strategy and tactics. Because it is so core to the sales and marketing function, it’s too risky to insert a proxy decision – making the body (or department) that may have their own set of criteria influencing their behavior. A large percentage of failed CRM deployments can be traced back to issues of misalignment and competing priorities that surfaced during vendor selection.
The important point here: Include your owner / CEO in the framing of your CRM goals. What reporting / informational needs does his team need? Involve the CEO at critical milestones of vendor selection and ensure you deliver to his/her goals for the project.